Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Sean Gunn, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debecki, Sylvester Stallone, Tommy Flanagan, Chris Sullivan
Featuring The Voices Of: Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel
Directed By: James Gunn
Plot: Our Guardians are first hired to protect something for a race of golden people, but then find themselves trying to escape because Rocket stole something on the way out, which ends up seeing them saved by Star Lord’s (Pratt) father, Ego (Russell). As Star Lord learns more about his father, and why his father left them, the Guardians are left to deal with various different things. Gamora (Saldana) must confront the unbreakable bond she and Nebula (Gillan) have. Rocket (Cooper) is still being a surrogate father to Baby Groot (Diesel), while trying to get out of jail. Drax (Bautista) spends a lot of time with new Guardian, Mantis (Klementieff), and Yondu (Rooker) has a bigger role as he does some deep soul searching and realizes what Star Lord actually means to him.
What Works: This film is somewhat plot less, but unfolds still in a way that you won’t be bothered by the lack of a major film arc. Reviewing this film without spoiling anything is incredibly difficult, as a lot of what I like about the film lies deep in spoiler territory. While this film lacks a plot, it makes up in in theme, with the whole film being about family. Star Lord feels like he doesn’t have a family, but he does… he has the Guardians. Then he has real family when Ego shows up, but is that the same thing? There’s the family dynamic between Gamora and Nebula, which fleshes Nebula out into a much stronger, more well rounded character. Yondu also grows a lot, and most of it is around the same theme of family. Even Rocket grows a lot in this film, as he starts uncovering why he’s a bit of a selfish asshole sometimes. This film nails character development, and all of our Guardians come out better from this film, and more ready for a long standing franchise. Not only am I super excited for Infinity War, but Guardians 3 is going to be excellent as well. In fact, I might be more excited for Guardians 3 at this point. The performances from our returning cast were great, with Gillan and Rooker being standouts because they were given more to do in the second film than in the first. Their backstories will break your heart. I thought Russell was a good Ego, and he seems like someone who could be Pratt’s father. They both play that same type. I thought Mantis was OK. I didn’t mind the gold people like some other critics have. Once I realized they were basically a MacGuffin, I didn’t care as much. Had they actually been the core villains for this film, this film would have suffered. Again, I have to avoid spoilers, but just trust me on this. This film also has a lot of really strong humor in it, specifically two scenes with Rocket where I was laughing my ass off. There are still good quips throughout, but I think I laughed harder in this film than the first.
What Doesn’t Work: This film does slow down and have pacing issues. A lot of that has to do with Ego and his exposition to explain who he is and where he comes from. There’s a lot of it, and I get that Ego is a complex character that doesn’t translate immediately onto film, but it did slow the film down. The first film had no pacing issues, but I can’t say the same for the sequel. I think there was a better way to explain Ego’s past without using direct exposition. Also, there were some scenes on Ego’s planet that were clearly green screen, and took me out of the film. I could tell that the actors weren’t standing in front of lush landscapes, and that was all just put in behind them in post. Just a few scenes, all on Ego’s planet. The rest of the visual effects are top notch. Groot and Rocket still look amazing and Rocket looks incredibly realistic.
Final Word: At the end of the day, this film is only slightly worse than the first film. Just, a tad. If I was giving number grades, I’d probably say the first film was a 93/100, and the sequel is a 92/100. There are some things that I thought the sequel did better, like character work, and some things the sequel did worse, like pacing, which basically even it out. It’s that kind of consistency though that really makes me excited for a third Guardians, because even if the third film was a 91/100, that’s a super solid trilogy. James Gunn continues to surprise me with his excellent ability to handle these characters and balance the humor with the action and more serious moments. This is definitely a must watch film this summer. I had a blast, and you will too.
Final Grade: A-
BONUS ROUND: SPOILER SECTION
BEWARE. THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE.
What I Loved (Spoilers): I loved Nebula’s backstory, where she reveals what Thanos did to her and why she is the way she is. Gillan did a great job here. I also loved how Ego turns out to be the bad guy, because the film didn’t seem to be heading that direction. At least, not full blown bad guy. I thought maybe Star Lord would have to make a choice, but when Ego says he put the tumor in his mother’s brain, I knew that we were dealing with some next level villain shit. I think Ego might be one of the great Marvel villains in the MCU, because it started to set him up as a good guy, which ultimately pits Star Lord against his father. Star Lord also has to choose between losing his new powers and immortality, or saving his friends. Of course, he chooses his friends, but he gives up a lot in the process. Then he loses Yondu, who proves himself to be a worthy hero in the sequel. I will definitely miss Yondu moving forward. I loved seeing Stallone and the old Guardians unite in the post-credits scene. When I saw Ving Rhames and Michelle Yeoh pop up, I knew they were setting up something we’ll either get to see in Infinity War, or in the third Guardians film, and I can’t wait. Lots of good stuff, but a lot of spoilers. Also, I liked seeing Howard The Duck again. Hopefully we get to see more of him in Guardians 3.